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South of Budva, the private island hotel of Sveti Stefan was once the Adriatic playground of the rich and famous during the 70s, but fell into decline during the 1990s. After painstaking renovations under Aman Resorts, the island has been restored to its former glory, making it once again one of Europe’s most glamorous destinations.
Joined to the mainland by a stone walkway, the island resort of Sveti Stefan is the most iconic symbol of Montenegro. It looks like something out of a fairytale story, with its terracotta rooftops contrasting against the azure blue of the Adriatic.
When the island came into view as we drove along the coastal road, I was captivated by it. But a room at an exclusive resort such as this comes with a hefty price tag- a 750€ per night (minimum) price tag! And that’s just for the cheapest room.
I wouldn’t usually fork out that much money on a night’s stay but since I was visiting Montenegro on a press trip, we were invited on an exclusive tour.
Sveti Stefan dates back to the 15th century, when the fortified village was built to defend against the Turks. It started out with 12 families but by the 1800s, the town was home to around 400 people. A second building called Villa Miločer was built on the mainland in the mid 1930s as the summer residence of Queen Marija Karadordevic of Serbia, which is surrounded by hundreds of olive trees and has its own beach.
In the first half of the 20th century the population began to decline due to many of the residents joining the army or moving overseas. By 1954 there were only 20 people left, so the Yugoslav government moved them to the mainland and converted the village into a luxury hotel, which welcomed the world’s most powerful elites.
In its 1970s heyday, the hotel was frequented by A-list celebrities such as Sylvester Stalone, Princess Margaret, Claudia Schiffer and Sofia Loren, but fell into decline during the break up of Yugoslavia.
Aman Resorts won the contract to revitalize the island, maintaining the old charm of the exterior while updating the interiors. The resort incorporates a range of accommodation on the island, plus Villa Milocer on the mainland.
There are also three pink sandy beaches, including Sveti Stefan, Miločer Beach, and Queen’s Beach. The island covers an area of 12,400 m2 (133,000 sq ft), while the coastline measures around 2-kilometres (1.2 miles) long.
Sveti Stefan is located on Montenegro’s Adriatic coastline southeast of Budva between between Pržno and Sveti Stefan villages.
On foot – You can get to Sveti Stefan on foot from Budva by walking the coastal path. It’s a pretty walk with swimming stops but bear in mind the walk is 8km.
By taxi/car – Alternatively you can take a taxi from Budva, or if you have your own car you can drive there and park in the parking lot near the island. Parking is €2 euros per hour, or if you spend €20 euros at Olive Restaurant, it’s free. The drive along the main road from Budva takes around 15 minutes. When you arrive, take your photos of the island from up near the main road because the view is much better.
By bus – There’s also a bus that runs from Budva bus station to Sveti Stefan for €2 euros each way.
Tour – If you’re staying in Kotor for the duration of your trip and don’t plan on visiting Budva, then you can book an organized tour to Sveti Stefan for the day.
Walking around the hotel it really doesn’t feel like you’re at a resort. It feels like you’re strolling around a very clean and well kept small village, which is really what Sveti Stefan is.
It’s more of an exclusive community rather than a hotel; only open to paying guests or visitors to the restaurant. All the stone cottages are linked by cobbled lanes and shaded courtyards – it’s really cute! Sveti Stefan is a really tranquil and peaceful island, and the surface of the water sparkles like diamonds. I couldn’t get over how blue the water is, it’s really incredible.
There are 51 rooms, cottages and suites on the island, which are all set inside the restored stone buildings.
Room types are as follows:
The most expensive of them all is the Sveti Stefan Suite, which has two-floors, a swimming pool, an outdoor terrace and spectacular sea views. All rooms have a costal vibe with white bedding, wooden furniture and a neutral color palette.
On the mainland, Villa Milocer offers 3 types of Suites:
Garden View Suites have Juliet balconies overlooking the gardens, while Sea View Suites overlook the Adriatic Sea. The mansion also boasts a communal living room, a large meeting room and a book-filled library.
Aman Sveti Stefan also boasts a state-of-the-art spa and a fitness center covering 140 square meters.
Treatments at the spa draw upon more than 650 medicinal herbs, many of which are sourced in Montenegro. The signature Adriatic Rejuvenation treatment starts with an oat-milk soak, followed by an exfoliating blend of mint-infused olive oil, wild honey and raw sugar. Guests are then massaged with lavender and palmarosa oils to leave the mind and body feeling relaxed and calm.
With a relaxing sea-view setting, the spa features three hydrotherapy suites offering scrubs, wraps and baths. There’s also 24 meter tranquil pool with indoor and outdoor sections, lined with slate and glass. Surrounding the pool area are three hydrotherapy areas with steam rooms, saunas, and cold-plunge pools.
Sveti Stefan’s gym is equipped with advanced Technogym cardiovascular and weight-training equipment. Personal trainers are also on hand to offer personalized workout programs, private kickboxing classes and bespoke bodywork sessions.
There are several dining options, both on the island and at Villa Milocer on the mainland.
Arva – An Italian restaurant on Sveti Stefan island with two outdoor terraces offering breathtaking views across the bay. The menu offers are modern spin on Italian cuisine, with a selection of fresh pastas and risottos, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The sea bass, octopus and rock oysters are caught fresh from the Adriatic, while the pasture-fed beef is sourced from northern Montenegro.
The Piazza – A little more casual and rustic than Arva, The Piazza restaurant is situated in an open-air square with views of the sea. The taverna is the island’s main restaurant, serving European and American breakfasts, plus fresh Mediterranean dishes for lunch and dinner. Head to The Piazza in the early evening and you’ll also be able to enjoy light snacks from the antipasti bar and and pre-dinner drinks while watching the sun go down.
Villa Milocer Restaurant – Located on the mainland, the restaurant at Villa Milocer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the year. Dinersa variety of classic and contemporary dishes from the Adriatic region while soaking up the of Sveti Stefan Island and the bay.
To make reservations at any of the restaurants, phone: +382 33 420 000
There are three beaches with pink sands at Aman Sveti Stefan:
Sveti Stefan Beach is open to the public as well as guests. There’s a north side and a south side to the beach on either side of the isthmus. On the north side the loungers and chairs cost €80 euros. On the south side prices start at around €15 euros for two chairs and an umbrella. Or you can just sit on the sand here for free. The loungers and chairs on both sides are run by Aman Sveti Stefan’s beach team.
King’s Beach lies between Sveti Stefan Beach and Queen’s Beach. This one is also open to non-residents as well as guests. The beach can be accessed either by boat from Sveti Stefan or by walking along the pathway that leads to Queen’s Beach.
Queen’s Beach is completely private and only available to guests staying at the hotel. Here you’ll find the Aman Spa and non-motorized water sports such as stand up paddle boarding.
Budva or anywhere on the Budva Riviera is ideal for visiting Sveti Stefan. If you’re looking to stay on the Budva Riviera, Explore Montenegro has a range of Budva holiday villas.
If you don’t want to spend much money, I’d recommend just sitting on the free beach for the day. You can also take a nice stroll along the coastal path, which leads from Olive Restaurant to Villa Milocer.
If you’re feeling peckish, there are a few restaurants in the area, which won’t be as expensive as dining on the island. These include:
Adrovic Restaurant – Restaurant at Hotel Adrovic, with a large terrace offering views of Sveti Stefan. The menu features local cheeses, salads, plus plenty of fresh fish and seafood from the ocean. Dishes include tuna carpaccio, spaghetti with seafood, grilled octopus, white fish baked in salt and beef steak in pepper sauce.
Olive Restaurant – Situated right next to Sveti Stefan Beach amongst centuries-old olive trees you’ll find Olive Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner on its covered terrace. The extensive menu features pastas, pizzas, seafood and meat dishes with plenty of fresh vegetables from Montenegro.
Femelja Kentera – Amazing location in the hillside with a terrace overlooking Sveti Stefan. The restaurant serves Montenegrin cuisine including pastas, pizzas, fish and seafood.
Drago – Established in 1967, Drago was around at the height of Sveti Stefan’s celebrity heyday. On the menu you’ll find a large number of meat dishes, including steak, veal, roasted chicken and lamb. Meanwhile the fish menu features fresh fish, oysters, octopus, squid, clams and gamberetti.
Prices start at around €750 euros per night but that’s for the cheapest rooms at Villa Milocer. Prices on Sveti Stefan island range from around €1000 per night to over €4000 euros per night.
Yes, most definitely. Sveti Stefan is the most iconic landmark in Montenegro. It’s totally worth it for the views and to relax on the beach for an afternoon. Even if you’re not staying on the island, you should come and have a walk around the area.
Sveti Stefan is currently owned by Aman Resorts. Russian businessman Vladislav Doronin is the CEO, chairman and sole owner of Aman Resorts.
If you’re not staying at the resort, you’ll need to make a reservation in one of the hotel’s restaurants. Make sure you try to book well in advance because I can imagine things get pretty booked up during peak season. Some people report that there are unadvertised tours of the island for €25 euros. Contact the hotel in advance to ask if they’re running any tours. Personally I’d rather book a meal there to feel the true experience.
Sveti Stefan is truly a magical place and should definitely be included on your Montenegro itinerary. I suggest staying a couple of days in Kotor and then a few nights in Budva so you can explore Sveti Stefan and all the other things to do in the area. While a stay at the resort may be out of most peoples’ price range, you can still lay on the beach, walk around and enjoy the scenery.
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